In the last few years, our world has become increasingly aware of gut health—or rather, our lack thereof. Just walk into any grocery store and you’ll notice the abundance of kombucha, kimchi, kefir, kraut and probiotics hitting the shelves, all designed to keep your gut healthy. But none of these products will do a thing for you if you don’t adopt a lifestyle that supports gut health to go along with it. Even scarier, poor gut health can result in intestinal permeability—aka leaky gut—which can negatively affect your mental health, physical health, immunity, and more. Let’s explore what makes up a healthy gut and what you can do to achieve it!
Table of Contents
- What is your gut microbiome?
- What are the benefits of a healthy gut?
- What happens when your gut is unhealthy?
- Leaky Gut Checklist
- Dilemmas in diagnosing gut problems
- How to heal your gut
Your microbiome is made up of all the micro-organisms in and on your body, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Your intestines host the largest microbial community, known as your gut microbiome, which hosts 100 trillion micro-organisms. This short video does a phenomenal job of summing up the importance of the gut microbiome and all it does for us:
It’s no wonder that people refer to the gut as the “second brain;” there’s a lot going on in there! The brain and the gut communicate with one another constantly, which is just one reason why stress can directly affect your stomach. (Have you ever had a “nervous stomach?”) As the video describes, the balance of your gut microbiome can affect everything from inflammation to weight gain and even your mood. It’s clear to see that if we don’t take care of our gut health, the rest of our body takes a serious hit.
If we don’t take care of our gut health, the rest of our body takes a serious hit.
Improving your gut health does so many wonderful things for your body, it’s hard to keep track! Here are just a few more benefits of having a healthy, balanced gut microbiome:
- Increased energy levels
- Stronger immune system
- Improved mental health
- Balanced hormones
- Easier weight loss
- Clearer skin
Food is medicine and it has been this way since the beginning of humanity—which means the largest immune organ that digests this food is important (the intestines!). If you are experiencing any kind of illness, the first place you should look is your gut and how you can help it optimally perform its very important jobs.
Would you believe me if I said your intestines are more like a net than a wall? They are permeable, meant to allow the good nutrients to pass through and the bad toxins, microbes and undigested particles to remain in the gut and pass through as waste. But when we feed our intestines the wrong foods and treat them with stress and inactivity, they can’t function properly. Those toxins, microbes and particles escape the gut and sneak into the bloodstream, causing inflammation in the body that leads to what is known as “Leaky Gut.” If you have several symptoms of Leaky Gut below, you might want to talk to your doctor to see how you can start rebalancing your gut health.
- Sometimes gut problems come down to the chicken or the egg. Chronic illness and then leaky gut? Or leaky gut and then chronic illness? Ongoing research points to the latter, but many physicians will still adamantly ignore this.
- GI problems are vast. Most illnesses—colds, flus, stress, parasites, food allergies, diseases, leaky gut—all create similar GI problems. This makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact problem.
- Many physicians don’t try to find the root of the problem. They often look at the intestines as a singular entity, when in fact the intestines reflect our overall health in so many different ways. So many people are on medicines that treat the symptoms, yet they are still sick. That is why many of these people are turning to alternative, evidence-based medicine for help.
- Many people are confused as to why we need to take probiotics and steer clear of gluten when our ancestors “way back when” supposedly never had these problems. The answer is not simple, but to be as straightforward as possible I will summarize that the food we ate then is the not the same food we eat now, even if it goes by the same name. This especially goes for wheat. In today’s world, hardly any of our food is untainted by human interference.
The food we ate then is the not the same food we eat now, even if it goes by the same name.
Amidst all the murk surrounding the ongoing research and differing opinions about gut health, one fact is crystal clear: you can repair your gut health. Healing Leaky Gut and its mass of interlinked problems starts by accepting your body is whole—it’s connected for a reason—and should be treated as such. Start small, by making dietary changes. You should slowly incorporate more fermented foods into your diet, like kombucha or kefir. Balance your body with probiotics and gut-healing bone broth. And always consult with your doctor on ways to manage your symptoms and get back to feeling like your healthiest self. While our checklist below is by no means conclusive, if you checked any of the symptoms on the Leaky Gut Checklist, this should give you a sense of how to get started on your journey toward improved health!
Here’s to your whole-body health, and to knowing a big part of that begins in your gut!